A very Gaddy Christmas

Wed, 12/19/2007 - 11:10am
By: Emily Baldwin

Lighting the way for Christmas cheer

A very Gaddy Christmas

For most of us, the Christmas season kicks off just after Thanksgiving. A month is spent planning, shopping and baking among the myriad of other tasks to accomplish, and by the time Christmas Day rolls around we’re in great need of a few days to rest.

For the Gaddy family, the Christmas season comes knocking in mid-summer. When Christmas seems a distant future for most, the Gaddys are launching once again into their annual holiday production: their Christmas display.

Drive down Sandy Creek Road any night from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day and you can’t miss the truly awesome display which comes to life each year. Mike and Gwen Gaddy have become local celebrities for their display which many residents treat as a holiday tradition.

Comprised of hundreds of lights and figures, the display features both traditional Christmas items and pop culture arrangements alike. The drive-thru nature of the Gaddy’s home display allows visitors the ability to make their way around the horseshoe driveway, gazing at all the display has to offer, all from the comfort of their vehicles.

Some of the most beloved items found in the Gaddy’s front yard include the giant, moving ferris wheel, the flying Santa over the Gingerbread House and the massive American flag that visitors encounter at the exit.

While the Gaddy’s famous display has been an annual project for almost two decades now, the Christmas spirit was within them both years before. As children, both Mike and Gwen’s families decorated their homes for the holidays.

“We used to have the foil on the front door,” recalled Mike, who says that, even with the simple decorations his family used, they were still the best decorated house in his neighborhood.

Gwen’s family also decorated their home for the holiday, infusing a love for Christmas in her as a child.

Mike built the house on Sandy Creek Road 44 years ago, and he and Gwen married 30 years ago. It was about 18 or 19 years ago, they say, that launched their own Christmas decorating tradition.

“The Ho Ho Ho sign was the first,” explained Mike. Next came the giant, red “Merry Christmas” sign to match.

After seeing a Christmas decoration featuring an old car up on blocks with lights around the tires to give it the feeling of being in motion, Mike decided he could do that too.

Each year after that Gwen would spend the days after Christmas shopping for additional items to add to their display. All the while, their children would point out places throughout the lawn which “needed to be filled in.”

One day while cutting the lawn, Mike cut a path for a full loop which allowed for a one-way path around their lawn. Since then the display has continued to grow and change, with each year adding something more for visitors old and new.

“So many people have given us their whole display,” said Gwen. “We have two new displays this year – one was given to us and one I bought.”

The Gaddys say they’ve received plenty of help from friends over the years, whether through display donations or help with the set-up.

Both Mike and Gwen Gaddy show particular fondness for the folks at Coweta Fayette EMC who have been helpful in the past when the electricity has gone down. Workers jumped at the chance to help out the family who had created so many holiday memories for their own families. When the Gaddy’s faced one particularly bad system meltdown, the workers had the show back up and running within a few hours the same night.

“The guys said that they bring their kids out every year,” recalled Mike. It’s interactions like these, with people who have treasured this holiday experience, that make all the work worth while, they say. And work it certainly is.

By mid-August every year the Gaddys have started the annual project, setting up poles, repairing damaged pieces and repainting those that need to be touched up among other chores. The six weeks before Thanksgiving see the Gaddys working every day until dark to ready the display for the first night of visitors on Thanksgiving Day.

“We do 95 percent of the set-up ourselves,” explained Gwen. “Mike’s a jury-rigger.” Mike’s talent for working around unexpected issues and situations along with his handy nature are what make this project happen each year.

The worst part of the months-long process, is wiring it all up, divulges Gwen, “We use a book of photos to help us remember how we set things up the year before.” The display, which stays up through New Year’s Day, isn’t completely put back in storage until mid-February, as that is how long it takes to break it all down.

Some of the Gaddy’s personal favorites from their display are the Wizard of Oz set, the Gingerbread House and the ferris wheel.

“Even though they’re not Christmas, it’s what the kids like,” Gwen said.

Added Mike, “My son was five when I made the Ninja Turtle.”

This year, the Gaddys decided to add something extra to the mix. So, they decided to host a Toys for Tots drive over the first weekend in December. When the weekend came for the toy drive, Gwen was touched to see how much support the community was willing to give.

“There were people who came out on both nights [of the toy drive] because they didn’t know about the drive the first night, and they wanted to bring a toy to donate the second night,” shared Gwen. For each donation, the visiting kids were given a thank you gift from the Gaddys.

The Toys for Tots drive proved to be quite a success, bringing in between 500 and 600 toys in addition to cash donations, said the Gaddys.

“The outpouring of gifts was tremendous,” said Mike.

Mike and Gwen Gaddy say they are training their son, who now lives next door, to take over their labor of love.

“It will be sad if we can’t do it one day,” Gwen remarked, emotion breaking her voice. For the Gaddys, the annual display isn’t just about the lights and cheer of the holidays – it’s also about the part they have played in the holiday memories of others. Now friends of their children, aged 30, 28 and 24, are bringing their children to see the display. Watching the faces of the little ones who visit light up with happiness at seeing the display makes the seven months of work worth it all.

For now, the Gaddys plan to keep setting up the display as long as they can, although it will likely not grow in size again anytime soon.

“I’m probably not going to add a whole lot more, but we’ll change some stuff out,” explained Gwen.

To experience all the warmth and cheer the Gaddys have to offer you and your family this season, head on over to their Christmas display. Their house is located at 898 Sandy Creek Road, Fayetteville, and the display will be open to visitors through Jan. 1, 2008.

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eodnnaenaj1's picture
Submitted by eodnnaenaj1 on Thu, 01/03/2008 - 2:49pm.

Let me offer a personal thank you for this wonderful Christmas display and the memories you are creating. Usually several times during the season I drive through. I truly do hope your son will carry on the tradition for the future. I know of other homes in the area that no longer do the big big displays, I wonder if they know how much they are missed. So, here is hoping that your tradition continues for a long long time. Thanks for the joy and the memories.

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